In its quest to redifine the public service, as per the recent public service study, the government has numerous interventions up its sleeves, come April 1st this year. The study was conducted to unearth the challenges of the civil service and recommend possible intervention strategies.
The recent decision by President Lt Gen Ian Khama and the public service boss, Ruth Maphorisa to downsize the public service by not replacing resigning and retiring employees was only the beginning as it will be followed by strict measures to make sure that the public service stays in shape and maintains its effectiveness and efficiency.
Khama recently revealed that he wants civil servants to be promoted on performance basis. During a visit to civil servants in Kweneng, the President said: “I would not have a problem if a perfoming certicate holder is promoted to supervise a degree holder or any other higher qualification if that certicate holder is a better perfomer.We want people who are willing to serve,” he said.
The reasons behind downsizing the civil service,Weekendpost has established will be to; “make it more affordable and to bring it in line with the new-scaled down role of the government in economic activities and to provide civil service with approapriate incentives,skills and motivation to enhance management and accountability.” Botswana’s wage bill is at 16/17 million Pula from a 54 billion budget and there are hundred and thirty thousand civil servants in the country.
A high ranking source at DPSM said that the downsizing will be achieved by privatising many of the inefficient and ineffective public agencies.The government, he said, will thus establish a symbiotic relationship between the private and public sector to achieve the goals of development.There has been constant clashes between the government and the private sector over the develoment of the country.
Maphorisa confirmed in an enterview with Weekendpost that Permanent Secretaries (PSs) and the rest of the civil service will with effect from the 1st of April be required to put on name tags among others. Ministers however will be excluded from this exercise.
The study has recommended the governmenment to inject new values and work ethics, approaches and attitudes to meet the growing demand for efficiency and productivity. Name tags, according to the study, will add discipline, a greater awareness of time and a sense of responsibility among others.
Our source revealed that “the government with the aid of the study has come to the realisation that the civil service traditionaly serves the state rather than the citizens, a culture that the government intends to root out”.
Despite this, another study by Salvator Schiaro-Campo has established that “in many countries in the South Saharan Africa, the civil service has sharply deteriorated,Botswana being one of the few exceptions.”
While he commends the emergence of local community initiatives,Campo says it is difficult to imagine how the civil service can be reformed on a lasting basis in most African countries without substancial improvements in governance,accountability,transparency and adherence to the rule of law.
Rightsizing-risks and oppotunities Campo’s service study revealed that, “central government employment may be high in a particular country as a useful “flag” but proves nothing in and of itself. The role of the government and degree of centralization vary from country to country”.
“For example, although France’s central civil service, as a percentage of population, is one of the world’s largest (about 3.5 percent), and the United Kingdom’s is one of the smallest (1 percent), total government employment accounts for around 10 percent of the population in both countries,” he said further adding that what this proves is merely that the French have chosen a more centralized system of government.
Determining the “right size” of a government workforce,he said, must be done on a country-by-country basis, taking into account the functions assigned to the state in that country, the degree of centralization, the skills profile, and, of course, the fiscal outlook.
Retrenchment according to Campo,can provide the where-withal to improve incentives and produce fiscal savings. But overemphasis on re-trenchment gives civil service reform a bad name and virtually ensures resistance.
“Moreover, retrenchment is almost always financially costly in the short term—and is often politically costly as well, particularly when unemployment is high. Political costs are not inevitable, however. Under certain conditions, public support for downsizing the government may offset opposition from those whose jobs are threatened, and internal opposition can be defused if downsizing is managed candidly and equitably,” he said.
According to Campo,when downsizing is necessary, it should not be approached as an end in itself or merely as a reaction to fiscal problems.
“Without careful planning and respect for the “law of unintended consequences,” retrenchment programs carry major risks. The short-term risk is skill reduction, if the program inadvertently encourages the best people to leave”, the study warned.
Furthermore,according to the study, “(Voluntary severance and early retirement can be especially problematic in this respect. The difficulty is that these downsizing measures are the easiest to carry out.) The medium-term risk is recurrence of overstaffing if personnel man-agement and control systems are not strengthened. Long-term risks include staff demoralization, lower-quality service, and loss of credibility if retrenchment is perceived as arbitrary and opaque, particularly in societies ridden with ethnic, clan, or religious conflicts”.
What are other reform measures? In addition to cost containment, civil service reform includes diagnostic and structural measures. Structural measures,according to Campo encompass reforming the salary structure, especially to restore competitiveness at higher levels; increasing the transparency and fairness of civil service regulations and giving greater weight to merit; increasing internal mobility; strengthening the capac-ity to manage personnel; providing training; and increasing accountability to the public.
Diagnostic measures on the other hand include civil service censuses, functional reviews of ministries, user surveys, data collection, and preparation of compendiums of regulations.
“Even in countries where circumstances are not yet conducive to reform, governments are often interested in diagnostic measures. A particularly useful starting point is a civil service census, which, if well designed, will not only uncover “ghost” workers and fraudulent wage payments but also provide the foundation for a human resources database and improved personnel management systems—which are needed to, among other things, prevent the recurrence of irregularities,” he said.
Wage policy Campo warns that the short-term fiscal savings from com-pressing wages are obvious but must not be allowed to drive wage policy. Deter-mining the adequacy of wages,he says, requires a country-specific, in-depth comparison of public-private wage differentials for compa-rable skills.
“Certainly, when public wages are too high relative to private wages, pub-lic wage cuts improve both resource alloca-tion and equity. However, developing countries typically have either barely com-petitive or inadequate public wages. In these cases, public wage cuts set in motion a vicious circle of demotivation, underper-formance, and justification for further reductions. (Fortunately, the reverse may also be true: even small wage increases can trigger a positive dynamic),” he added.
In practice,Campo says government wage reduction has usually entailed larger proportionate cuts at higher levels (or salary caps) and, thus, progressively greater salary compres-sion.
“(Internationally, average public wages range between 3 and 6 times per capita income, and the “compression ratio” be tween the highest and the lowest salary ranges from 3:1 to 20:1, with a norm of about 7:1.) Although the short-term equity considerations are understandable, the long-term outcomes of such a policy are the departure of better employees, difficulty inrecruiting qualified outsiders, and a “deskilled” labor force too poorly paid to resist temptation, cowed by pressures from politicians and influential private interests and unable to perform adequately.
Beyond the deterioration of public goods and services, the result is a worsening economic climate for the private sector and an increase in transaction costs for the economy as a whole,”he said in his study.
He continued that In recent years, governments have sought ways to target wage increases to essential skills or functions. This,he said, may well be the right policy, but a word of caution about “performance pay” is in order here.
“It is intuitively appealing to link bonuses to yearly performance in terms of specific out-put measures. However, the facts show that bonus schemes have been only marginally effective in improving performance, even in the private sector and especially in the public sector, where outputs are difficult to quantify,” he warned.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.